Archives for posts with tag: Italy

Popo — that’s me — visited Italy for the very first time in October 2012, then again in 2013. Last October I went to France, and this May I’ll be sightseeing across Canada by train!

This is my travel blog. Popo, while an Italian name, means Grandmother in Chinese, and though our granddaughters aren’t Chinese, I am. You’ll see.

“2012 – First Trip” records an uncommon trip to Italy in 24 little stories.

“2013 – Italy” is about taking my adult art students from Hawaii to a villa in Tuscany. Painting lessons, cooking lessons, and train rides into Florence comprised the first two weeks’ experience before I moved on to the Cinque Terre, Rome, and Pozzuoli.

Viking River Cruises took me to see Paris and the Heart of Normandy in 2015. Below this introduction is my 2016 adventure in Canada!

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While it feels like home when I’m at Villa Minghetti where I’ve stayed with family and friends twice in one year—in Spicchio village outside the small Tuscan town of Lamporecchio—there is no place like Hawai‘i, my real home.

I write from my studio in Ka‘a‘awa before daylight. Paint and prepare for an art show planned for November after sunrise. I have time to reflect on the recent journey to Italy and the beautiful extended family we all got to know.

My friend Debbie sums it up: “Over there, they adopt you.”

The experience designed for my painting students is unforgettable:  the keys from Federica to the three-story house, garden, and swimming pool for two weeks; five days of oil painting lessons by her husband Agostino Veroni; Tuscan cooking lessons by Franco Mazzei, chef; meeting their children and parents; free time to take the train to the glorious city of Florence and elsewhere; and the chance to enjoy Italian hospitality and experience the culture.

I want to return the hospitality in Hawai‘i. When would be a good time?

Federica, Agostino, and baby Giulio

Federica, Agostino, and baby Giulio

Our painting teacher Agostino Veroni showed us how he paints from start to finish in about two and a half hours. Amazing!

Our painting teacher Agostino Veroni showed us how he paints from start to finish in about two and a half hours. Amazing!

This family works hard to run a cottage industry, literally. The villa is on an olive farm where Federica’s grandfather had grapes planted once, but wine making is more labor intensive than getting oil from olives, so now it’s just olives. In a back room we watch Agostino bottle the olive oil as it runs out of the spigot of a big vat, one of five. The oil is from last November’s harvest; we were there when they shook the olives from the trees last year! Federica caps and puts on the labels.

Agostino uses a power rake to harvest the olives last November.

Agostino uses a power rake to harvest the olives last November.

The olive oil is stored in stainless steel vats and bottled by hand to the customer's order (our order).

Olive oil is stored in stainless steel vats and bottled by hand to the customer’s (our) order.

Federica carefully applies the labels.

Federica carefully applies the labels.

Every day he can, when he isn’t personally marketing his work on weekends or helping out with the property, Agostino paints. The land inspires his original oil paintings en plein air. Sunflowers, poppy fields, olive groves, mountains and the sea. His gallery agent has arranged to show his art in Naples, Florida, in February. Would I come? Federica asks. How far is it from Hawai‘i? She has little idea it is half a world away, only that it is “paradise.”

Agostino paints while daughter Giorgia, 7, watches

Daughter Giorgia, 7, watches Agostino paint sunflowers.

The artist's working studio

The artist’s working studio

And, of course, Federica manages and cares for Villa Minghetti, part of a family real estate business. A private wing that is a former servants’ quarters now houses the painter’s studio, viewing room, and kitchen. We have great fun baking pizza from scratch in the old, old olive-wood-burning oven!

Agostino selected the exterior of his studio, formerly servants' quarters, to demonstrate how to paint a textured rock wall. It looks plain in real life, so he decides to add wisteria flowers.

Agostino selects the exterior of his studio, formerly the servants’ quarters, to show how to paint a textured rock wall. It looks plain in life, so he decides to add wisteria flowers.

This is the finished oil painting by Agostino Veroni of the wisteria. He liked this one a lot.

This is the finished oil painting by Agostino Veroni of the wisteria. He likes this one a lot.

View from the kitchen into the viewing room.

View from the kitchen into the viewing room.

Agostino makes pizza

Agostino gets ready to shove his pizza into the hot oven behind him.

Aloha, ciao ciao, until we meet again. Your friend,

Rebekah

P. S. I’m still trying to duplicate chef Franco’s recipes. They may not be exact, but they’re close. I’ll post them soon.

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Santa Croce in Florence, Italy

Santa Croce gothic church in Florence, Italy, is an architectural site our tour-guide-for-a-day recommended we visit. There wasn’t enough time to go inside on her full itinerary that included the Accademia – location of Michelangelo’s “David” – and the Uffizi that houses the important Renaissance art.

So we took the train from Empoli to Florence on another day while we were in Tuscany to see the church that has the Star of David on the front; its architect was Jewish. Inside are the tombs of many greatly accomplished men, for example, Michelangelo, Galileo, Danti, Machiavelli, and Rossini.

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Michelangelo’s tomb

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Galileo’s tomb

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Rossini’s tomb

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Danti’s memorial

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Machiavelli’s tomb

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Pipe organ at Santa Croce church

The church is large. If you go around the exterior to the back, you’ll arrive at the entrance to Scuola del Cuoio, the workshop, showrooms, and retail shop of a leather artisan school where you can buy well-made goods by the students and help to support the school.

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Exterior, Santa Croce church

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Another exterior view of Santa Croce church

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Entrance to the leather school is well marked

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Entry to the leather school’s showrooms, etc., is up the steps at the back of this courtyard.

For refreshment, lunch, tea, or dinner, my recommendation is Boccadama on the right side of the plaza as you face the front of Santa Croce church. Ask for a table inside for a quiet, intimate atmosphere and attentive service.

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Good food at this ristorante

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Tiramisu from Boccadama

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

When Pete, Linda, and I arrived in Rome by train as tourists for three nights, the first thing we did was purchase the three-day Roma Pass for 34 euro from the counter at the station. It’s similar to the Firenze Card. For the money it’s a good deal because you get admission, or discounted admission, to museums and other visitor attractions, avoid queues, and can use the card for public transportation. It comes with a city map and handy phone numbers and internet links.

To see the Sistine Chapel (no photos allowed) and the Vatican Museums in the separate country of the Vatican City, our hotel concierge booked a guided tour for us with LH Tours; we took the Metro to meet Lucilla Paola Favino, M.A. Ph.D., our guide who is an archaeologist. Also well worth the money to skip the lines and have an informative and amusing interpretation of what you are seeing.

St. Peter's Square

St. Peter’s Square

Recessional at St. Peter's Basilica

Recessional at St. Peter’s Basilica

There is so much in Rome. With limited time, we had to be selective for our first visit. The Roma Pass got us into:

• Colloseo/Palatino to see the Anfiteatro Flavio, or Colloseum, “the largest arena of the ancient world used by the Romans for gladiatorial combats, and other spectacles until the 6th century” (quotes from the Roma Pass Guide); the Foro Romano, the forum that “served as the centre of public life in Rome for over a thousand years,” and the site and extensive grounds of an ancient Flavian palace.

My friend Linda, at right, Pete, and me in the Colloseum.

My friend Linda, at right, Pete, and me in the Colloseum.

Beneath the floor of the Colloseo was the backstage area for the animals and the players. For perspective, note the visitors in the lower right of the photo.

Beneath the floor of the Colloseo was the backstage area for the animals and the players. For perspective, note the visitors in the lower right of the photo.

The Farnese Gardens on the grounds of the Palatino (palace) near the Colloseo

The Farnese Gardens on the grounds of the Palatino (palace) near the Colloseo

• Museo Nazionale Romano, an archaeological museum with sculpture, frescoes, and mosaics — much of it showing how the Romans loved Greek art and were inspired to copy it.

Detail of The Boxer sculpture in the Museum Nazionale Romano

Detail of The Boxer sculpture in the Museo Nazionale Romano

Peplophoros (a sculpture). She is wearing a peplos of thin, clinging fabric carved in the manner of Ionic garments. In the Museo Nazionale Romano.

Peplophoros (a sculpture). She is wearing a peplos of thin, clinging fabric carved in the manner of Ionic garments. In the Museo Nazionale Romano.

The Italian mosaics fascinate me. The tiles are about 1/8-inch square. This one is of a cat and a bird (top half) and of two ducks (bottom half). The mosaics covered the floors, while frescoes decorated the walls.

The Italian mosaics fascinate me. The tiles are about 1/8-inch square. This one is of a cat and a bird (top half) and of two ducks (bottom half). The mosaics covered the floors, while frescoes decorated the walls.

Left corner detail carving of a battle on the sarcophagus of Portonaccio, depicting victory over barbarians

Left corner detail carving of a battle on the sarcophagus of Portonaccio, depicting victory over barbarians

il Bacio copy

Il Bacio, the kiss, a modern bronze sculpture by Fanor Hernandez in the courtyard of Museo Nazionale Romano

• The opera “La Traviata” by I Virtuosi dell’opera di Roma performed at Teatro Salone Margherita (with a discount).

We sat in the middle of the fourth row in this small-sized theater for "La Traviata."

We sat in the middle of the fourth row in this small-sized theater for “La Traviata.”

Pretty red velvet seats of the opera house

Pretty red velvet seats of the opera house

• The underground Metro transportation system (wave the card over the yellow pad at the turnstile and go).

We entered the 20-centuries-old Pantheon – Basilica Santa Maria Ad Martyres, the inspiration for St. Peter’s Basilica, for free; it is a church.

Pantheon, front view. Note the diameter of the columns.

Pantheon, front view. Originally a temple to all the gods, it has been in continuous use since its construction. Note the diameter of the columns.

Side view of the Pantheon exterior. You can see the round shape behind the columns.

Side view of the Pantheon exterior. You can see the round shape behind the columns.

Detail, Pantheon exterior

Detail, Pantheon exterior

Interior of the Pantheon

Interior of the Pantheon

The floor of the Pantheon

The floor of the Pantheon. Eighty per cent of the floor of polished stone is original from 1,800 years ago.

The dome of the Pantheon, with round window at the top letting in sunlight, and original rectangular windows at lower left of photo.

The dome of the Pantheon, with round window at the top letting in sunlight, and original rectangular windows at lower left of photo.

We booked a suite at Hotel Nazionale for three of us, next door to The Parliament, and we felt very secure. A high-class establishment Giolitti was down the block with pastries, candies, gelato, and fancy coffee drinks.

Italian sweets from Giolitti

Italian sweets from Giolitti

My lunch

My lunch

Rebekah and Linda on the Spanish Steps on an uncommonly uncrowded morning, we're told.

Rebekah and Linda on the Spanish Steps on an uncommonly uncrowded morning, we’re told.

Trevi Fountain at night

Trevi Fountain at night

 

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Pisa at night is delightful this time of year. Shorts weather, people on the street, outdoor dining, few tourists, many university students, bicycles and dogs on leashes.
After the long flights – we left Honolulu on the 4th and arrived in Pisa on the 6th – a glass of wine did me in. I suggested to our foursome that we do as the Italians do. Take riposo, that is, an extended lunch hour in the middle of the afternoon, for a nap.
Pete woke us up at 6:30 p.m. and insisted we take a walk to explore the town and get some exercise. The streets were alive! It took us about 30 minutes to stroll from our hotel near the airport to the Arno river and Campo dei Miracoli, the “Field of Miracles” park setting for Campanile, better known as the Leaning Tower, and other architectural wonders: the Duomo, the Baptistry, and the Camposanto.
Our plan for tomorrow morning before we pick up our rental car is to revisit the Leaning Tower and climb to the top. We might run into Nani, Rae, and Kevin who arrived in Italy a few days earlier. And we might bump into Richard and his family who plan a Saturday in Pisa. Richard was in my painting group in Hawaii; this semester he is teaching in Florence.
I’ve decided to post some night shots of the leaning icon instead of the usual photo of people looking as if they are pushing the tower back to plumb.
I made the third photo of the crowd at Piazza Garibaldi from the Ponte di Mezzo. It was 10:30 at night.

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